First broadcast on January 11th, the former government minister turned travel presenter recorded the programme last summer, travelling
firstly by train between Dover and Folkestone in the days when there was still a rail-link between the twocoastal towns.
Following the original 1863 version of the world’s first rail guide, produced by travel enthusiast George Bradshaw, he stopped off at Westenhanger to visit a couple of Hythe’s most interesting and unique attractions. Bradshaw described Hythe in his guide as “small, clean and healthy”, a description with which some may well disagree more than 160 years later. However, the colourfully attired Mr Portillo finds Hythe to be a small market town as pretty as Bradshaw described it.
He took time to meet local researcher Mike Pearson at St. Leonard’s Church to see the 1,200 skulls and 4,000 pairs of leg bones stored in the Church’s crypt, who despite numerous theories have been found to have reached their final resting place as a result of natural mortality.
“Although we can’t add to the collection these days, we do have visitors asking if we can save them a space
when they pass on!” said Mike.
He then hopped aboard the Winston Churchill miniature steam engine at the RHDR terminus in Hythe, with driver Mick Knight, possibly unknowingly travelling through The Looker’s heartland. “Although we’re only going at 18mph, it actually feels like we’re moving at 70mph because we are so close to the ground”, he tells an excited Mr Portillo.
The presenter took over the driver’s seat and whistle-tooting duties from New Romney to Dungeness where the 13.5-mile line ends. “What a wonderful experience – a real feeling of speed and power and responsibility”, he purred as he disembarked.
The episode was one of five showing Michael Portillo’s journey along the whole of the south coast from Dover to Cornwall.